Mumbai and Beyond: An AJWS tour of grassroots India
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One week before terrorists attacked Mumbai in late November, Ruth Messinger led an American Jewish World Service Study Tour to India that offered a very different glimpse of the country than that ...

One week before terrorists attacked Mumbai in late November, Ruth Messinger led an American Jewish World Service Study Tour to India that offered a very different glimpse of the country than that revealed in the wake of the tragedy. Eighteen supporters of AJWS explored the sources of injustice against India’s poor, and met grassroots leaders working across the country to overcome it. What they saw gave room for hope: in a support group for battered women, in the homes of HIV homecare providers and at a clinic for intravenous drug users in Mumbai’s slums, they encountered again and again the courageous people working to diminish the stigma and discrimination within the caste system and advocate for equal rights for all of India’s people. Our grief at the loss of 163 innocent lives and AJWS’s proximity to the attacks make the beauty of India’s grassroots activism all the more poignant.

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Mumbai and Beyond: An AJWS tour of grassroots India Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Mumbai and Beyond An AJWS tour of grassroots India O ne week before terrorists attacked Mumbai in late November, Ruth Messinger led an American Jewish World Service Study Tour to India that offered a very different glimpse of the country than that revealed in the wake of the tragedy. Eighteen supporters of AJWS explored the sources of injustice against India’s poor, and met grassroots leaders working across the country to overcome it. What they saw gave room for hope: in a support group for battered women, in the homes of HIV homecare providers and at a clinic for intravenous drug users in Mumbai’s slums, they encountered again and again the courageous people working to diminish the stigma and discrimination within the caste system and advocate for equal rights for all of India’s people. Our grief at the loss of 163 innocent lives and AJWS’s proximity to the attacks make the beauty of India’s grassroots activism all the more poignant. Photo Ruth messingeR
  • 2. “in mumbai, the young A 16-year-old whose husband women and girls are standing throws her out of her home, to greet us. … shy only for a and when she later writes to moment, they suddenly cannot tell him she is pregnant, denies wait to tell us their stories. the baby is his. A woman in their need to tell is matched black garb and dark sunglasses by our eagerness to hear. sits quietly in the corner. the Wives whose husbands abuse glasses hide eyes so badly them, discard them, but won’t damaged by beatings that she grant a divorce. required two surgeries.” —Debra Weiner Photo jolie schWAb
  • 3. “As i listened to the strong, determined women tell their stories i couldn’t help thinking of the jews fleeing egypt, or the sudanese who survived even though their villages were burned. … i loved how passionate they were about demanding their rights.” —Alison Katz Photo jolie schWAb
  • 4. “For me, in india, there never forget it. but i will give were only the children—on to those who have not lost platforms and slums; abused, hope and they will give to the infected, hungry; untouchables children. … i have given and sweeping toilets. i never therefore, i have planted many understood what low caste plants to feed bodies and souls really means. now, i will no different than mine.” —Rabbi Steven Leder Photo jolie schWAb
  • 5. “i asked the woman in the woman ask for? A better slums what she would ask education for her children. i for if she had one wish. i smiled. A universal reaction expected her to say a bigger from a mother. After she said house, guaranteed meals, or it, it made total sense to me a miraculous cure for her that what she would want, dreadful disease. but what more than anything, is a better did this poor, deprived, sick life for her children.” —Ronit Berkovich AJWS Study tour participant Sara Aftergood. Photo jolie schWAb
  • 6. “i have much in common on a fundamental level with the intravenous drug users at the sankalp drop-in center, even though our lives are so different. When i asked them if they ever tried to get into jail, where they would at least have a roof over their heads and something to eat, the answer among the dozens of men was a unanimous “no.” “At least on the streets we have our freedom,” one man said. And i smiled, because i got it. From moses and the people of israel risking everything and enduring 40 grueling years in the desert for freedom … to the [pioneers] going to the almost uninhabitable land of Palestine to start a new life in the name of freedom; these men universally agreed that living a life without shelter and having to scramble for food was not the worst life imaginable, because it was better than a life without freedom.” —Ronit Berkovich Photo Ruth messingeR
  • 7. AJWS Study tour participants terry and Carol Winograd, Debra Weiner, Jolie Schwab and Bikash Das. Photo jolie schWAb “i learned that AjWs does insist, against power, that those ‘rights-based’ projects. not rights must be honored. they giving out resources to the don’t just get aid from AjWs, poor, but finding ways to but build a base to provide educate people about their for themselves what they rights and support them in deserve as human beings.” creating communities that —Terry Winograd
  • 8. “i was struck by the way people introduced themselves: “i’m [narsrai]. i’m hiV positive. my cDc count is 342.” i thought of AA and its introductions: the first step to conquering a problem is being able to name it—to openly speak out in a supportive community. And that was why that roomful of men and women had made the long journey to be there—having been shamed by their families, friends and employers—to be part of a community of acceptance. later that evening, Ruth had us go around and introduce ourselves: “i’m tom. i’m here with the AjWs study tour…” i almost wanted to say: “my AjWs count is four years of donations, two events and a study tour.” the similarity is deep—it speaks to the universal human need to find a community of shared values and commitment.” —Terry Winograd Photo jolie schWAb
  • 9. “Yesterday reminded me to live in ignorance of the that all is never hopeless—no pain and suffering and poor matter how hopeless it might conditions in the world, but it seem, because there is so is not right to do so … And i much even a single person pray to god that he will help can do to change the world. me use my fortunate position this [trip] was difficult, but to help make the world a difficult is good. it is important. better and more just place.” it is much more comfortable —Ronit Berkovich Photo Ruth messingeR
  • 10. Photo jolie schWAb “i will always remember the amazing degree of openness and friendliness we experienced again and again as we wandered into places where we were strangers. this is the india i’ll most remember.” —Terry Winograd
  • 11. American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community. www.ajws.org/studytours Photo jolie schWAb